Dual Tracks: The Sprint and The Marathon

April 10, 2020 / Comments Off on Dual Tracks: The Sprint and The Marathon

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Latest blog from Liz Moore, MNA Executive Director.


I’m not a runner. But even I understand the much-used phrase “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” And I believe this. But circumstances are calling on nonprofit leaders to do both, which actually isn’t possible. Our bodies are unable to tolerate either a constant sprint or multiple sprints, one immediately after the other, for any considerable length of time. As we wrap up a week that was more settled than last week, it’s worth considering what it takes to sustain a marathon when we know we may need to break into a sprint at any time.

According to what I’ve read about marathoning, a key element of the long-distance race is planning for the amount of stamina kept in reserve so that you make it to the finish line. With COVID-19, we have significant unpredictability about exactly where that finish line is. And as a result, we need to think differently about the reserve. We not only have to consider what it means to have an uncertain finish line, but also what will happen to the reserve we’d planned for when our settled pace is interrupted by the need to sprint again.

In racing there is probably a formula for how to pace this. Candidly, I’m not sure what the formula is for being flexible enough to respond to the current pandemic moment while preparing to be proactive for an unknown future. It’s a topic we are discussing at MNA. One practical step we’re taking now is setting aside time as a team for “future think” even while meeting the immediate demands of the day. Over the next several weeks we’ll be bringing forward tools that can be used to help us all imagine various scenarios and create adaptive strategies, particularly in the area of human resources and financial planning

For today, if you – like us – are experiencing calm after the storm, I hope you’ll take it in. In fact, lean into it. At our morning staff meeting we opted to make this a three-day weekend. On the fly. That’s stellar flexibility, and I hope we really stick the landing as a team. We are in this for the long haul, which means we need to save a little extra because things are going to change again.

Looking toward next week, please check out our Town Hall schedule. We will also send an important “Call to Action” early in the week, asking you to consider signing on to a letter we’ll be sending our congressional delegation as the next phase of the CARES Act is crafted. But that’s for next week. Enjoy the weekend. Thank you for all you’re doing to hold up the fabric of Montana’s communities even in the midst of so much uncertainty. Stay healthy and safe.